With nearly 10,000 legal firms to choose from in England and Wales, and a further 3,000 claims management companies, just where do you start if you’ve had an accident or employment dispute or any other situation requiring professional legal representation? If you see a firm advertised on the internet does it mean they are ‘good’ – or just that they have thought to have a website built?
In this article we look at how you might go about choosing a firm to start your legal claim. We will be recommending ourselves of course – if we didn’t think we were good at what we do, we wouldn’t be here. But on a more serious note, we will underline some common sense principles and then you are free to apply them as you will.
First, let’s start with some of the ones you should avoid.
Have you ever received a text or call from a company asking if you have had an accident that you should claim for?
No matter how persuasive their argument, you should not use them. If you have a valid claim, of course you should pursue it – but certainly not with a firm that contacts you first without your prior permission. ‘Cold calling’ is strictly prohibited by the Solicitors Regulation Authority (SRA), and quite obviously if a firm breaches this fundamental rule, then their conduct elsewhere is likely to be less than professional.
All solicitors must be registered with the SRA, and carry professional insurance
A lack of either indicates you should look elsewhere - but that still leaves nearly 10,000 to choose from.
Does location matter?
Undoubtedly it can be reassuring to be able to meet your solicitor face to face. Some types of cases, such as family and criminal, benefit especially from this. For others, including personal injury and employment claims, it makes little difference whether the solicitor is talking to you in person or over the telephone. The latter is obviously more convenient for you and the solicitor.
Medical examinations are required to support personal injury claims, but here also the location of the solicitor does not matter as most have access to one of several national networks of medical report providers.
Is your case better off in the hands of a large firm or a small one?
Although the largest law firms have thousands of employees each, these are in the minority - 85% of all legal firms have four or less partners (IRN Research, 2010).
The larger the firm, the greater the combined experience across its solicitors and, usually, business processes are more refined. On the other hand smaller firms are often felt to offer a more personal touch to their customer service and you are more likely to have your case dealt with by a senior member of the firm.
When it comes to what really matters though, the skill and experience of the solicitor representing you is more important than the size of the firm they work for. So how do you find that skill?
We asked Anna Theo, Head of the Injury Claims team at Tollers Solicitors, how he would look for a solicitor if he were a client himself: “It is difficult to know who will do a good job for you. If you do not have a solicitor who you have used before and are happy to use again, then it is best to rely on personal recommendation. People rely on the opinion of someone they trust - a friend or a relative. We find a lot of our work comes to us this way. It is a reflection of the service that we have provided to customers.
“Beyond personal recommendation, I would advise looking carefully at websites - see how much expertise they seem to have in dealing with your issue. If English is not your first language then it would be comforting to know that your solicitor or someone in their firm can speak your native language. We have found that our Polish clients have greatly appreciated being able to speak in Polish to someone in our firm.”
Tollers Solicitors are based in the East Midlands and advise clients nationally. They are a respected member of the Hamilton Brady panel with a long standing reputation for legal as well as customer service excellence – qualities that led to us partnering with them.
This brings us to the subject of legal claims management companies such as Hamilton Brady that work in partnership with a number of solicitors.
Why would you use an intermediary rather than go direct to the solicitor?
Iwona Palkiewicz, Senior Customer Service Advisor, explains some of the advantages: “We have already done the groundwork for you in interviewing and selecting the most effective solicitors we can find. Our reputation rides on the service you receive from our solicitors so we take this very seriously. When you contact us for the first time one of our customer service advisors will take the details of your case. It is then assessed by a senior management team who refer it to the solicitor we believe is best placed to handle it.
“Throughout the duration of your case, our team are available to help with any queries – we can provide free translation services if needed through a telephone conference call between the solicitor, you and one of our staff. We are paid by the solicitors for facilitating your case acceptance so there is no charge from us to you. If your case is being run on a CFA (Conditional Free Agreement) basis then you are not paying the solicitor either.”
The CFA’s are far preferable to paying a fee to the solicitor but depend on the solicitor accepting your case as such. Lawyers will carry out a ‘risk analysis’ of your case before offering to take it on a CFA basis. They look at the circumstances of the claim, the likelihood of winning, an estimate of costs and also how likely it is they will be able to recover both their costs and a ‘success fee’ from the other side. If the resulting risk is too high, then unfortunately they will inform you they can only take the case on a fee paying basis. This should not be taken personally – it is no more than their professional assessment of these various factors.
Different solicitors have different criteria by which they will accept a case on a CFA basis. If your case is not accepted by the first solicitor we refer it to, then we will try again with another firm of the same quality, but without any further effort required on your part. If you were to shop around yourself, you would have to explain your case again to each one.
One of the most common reasons for a solicitor not being able to take your case on a CFA basis is that CFA’s are not allowed for claims worth less than £5,000. Although this is considered to be a ‘small claim’ by the English legal system, £4,999 (and even less) is still worth a considerable amount to most people.
By HAMILTON BRADY LTD,
Tel: 0844 873 6081
Address: Springfield House
Water Lane, Wilmslow, Cheshire, SK9 5BG.
Disclaimer: The above article is meant to be relied upon as an informative article and in no way constitutes legal advice. Information is offered for general information purposes only, based on the current law when the information was first displayed on this website.
You should always seek advice from an appropriately qualified solicitor on any specific legal enquiry. For legal advice regarding your case, please contact Hamilton Brady for a Consultation with a Solicitor on 0844 873 608.